Imagine being the parent of the man born blind. In Jewish culture physical disabilities were often thought of as God’s punishment for personal sin (see the book of Job). Even though the Jews did not believe in the preexistence of the soul, some might have even blamed the man himself for his blindness.
Physical challenges are hard: verbal attacks are often more painful. And it may be that some said painful and injurious words to the man born blind as he begged for help. They might have said, “Why should we help you? You’re obviously under God’s judgment! Or at least your parents are!”
Imagine how refreshing it must have been for this blind man to hear Jesus’ response to the question, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind? “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” The text doesn’t specifically tell us that the man born blind heard these words from Jesus, but it seems reasonable to assume so.
How could another human being make such a categorical declaration about someone else?! “Neither this man nor his parents sinned . . .” Who is qualified to say something like this? ONLY GOD! And God knows us and our sins and why we experience the tragedies that we do in life. Jesus not only declared what was NOT true (“Neither this man nor his parents sinned”) but also what WAS true (“but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him”) (or COULD BE true). Isn’t it the case that when we are suffering the real question we need an answer to is not “Why has this happened to me?”, but “FOR WHAT PURPOSE am I gong through this trial?” And they are not the same question. To ask WHY assumes we might challenge God’s wisdom in sending or at least allowing such and such to come into our lives. To ask FOR WHAT PURPOSE indicates a willingness to honor God with this trial. We need to know that our challenges are not purposeless! And this blind man’s wasn’t!
As the great preacher Steve Brown put it, “Sometimes we serve God better with our wounds than with our wellness!” (to be continued)